By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
Seven straight weekends of dangerous conditions at sea meant we were not able to take the boat out safely in Southern California, so when we saw an opportunity – we pounced on it!
Seems like we’ve been reading about small craft warnings for the last 2 months. And this week wasn’t any different, with the National Weather Service predicting seven- to nine-foot waves throughout the past week.
Then on Thursday, their predictions were calling for more favorable seas on the weekend, in the four- to six-foot range.
So, on Sunday June 19th, a small group of us loaded up all the dive gear and headed out a short distance from the Channel Islands Harbor where our boat is docked.
Because it was Father’s Day, we couldn’t round up several of the usual volunteers. But we did manage to get four divers together, and two more helping me manage the boats.
Kim Cardenas, Craig LaPorte, Geoff Walsh, and Mike Wynd, teamed up into two dive teams, with Craig and Mike going down first because they both use re-breather systems. Then Kim and Geoff followed them down 20 minutes later.
Just as Kim and Geoff were at the anchor line, ready to drop down, we saw two lift bags break the surface about 100 feet away from the boat.
Sue St. Sure and Dave Merrill quickly hopped into the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat), motored over to the lift bags, and hooked up a tow line to them. Usually when we see two lift bags it means that the divers located and removed a trap. Sure enough, that was the case.
Dave and Sue towed the trap as close to the boat as possible, and they got the hook and line from the davit (crane) attached to the trap. I then started hauling it up and onto the front deck.
As soon as it got out of the water, I could see that there were several animals in it. Yahoo!
When I hauled it onto the deck, I could see three lobsters, two sheep crabs and one rock crab. All alive and excited to get a second chance at life. All the lobsters were way bigger than we are used to seeing, with one of them looking like it was two feet long. You read that right TWO FEET LONG!
This being Father’s Day, we let Dave have the honor of setting them free. As you can see, he was pretty happy.
Dave being a family man, would normally spend any chance he can get to be with his family. When he asked his wife Jean if it would be OK to go AWOL for the day, she said he should do what he wants for the special day. Thanks Jean AND Dave for spending the day with us, and it had special meaning for a devoted father to set all those animals free.
Once we had the trap safely onboard, all four divers surfaced and swam to the back of the boat to climb up the ladder. That proved to be very trying. The waves were causing the boat to pitch up and down a lot. This made it very difficult for the divers to remove their fins, hold onto the ladder, and then climb up with 40 to 60 pounds of gear on their back.
After several trying minutes, everyone was back on the boat. Tired out, but at least no one got hurt.
Then they started to tell us about what they saw down there. Not much, actually. The UW vis was only about four feet. Plus, the surge was really strong and was pitching them around while they tried to dig that trap out of the muddy bottom. It actually took them 20 minutes to dig it out.
With those conditions, and they were not going to get better as the day wore on, we decided to call it a day.
This area is heavily fished by lobster fishermen, so we have a feeling there are more down there. We’ll be back as soon as conditions allow. Hopefully sooner than seven weeks…
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